“No One Can Figure Out Why John Fed Himself to a Bear” by Benjamin Davis

14113248032_522bfca7d5_o.jpg

I was thirty years old. I had money. It moved around me. It didn’t grow as I wanted it to, but it didn’t run away from me like it used to. I could afford a car, an apartment, and an assortment of smart gadgets.

I called my friend Carl and said I’d drive him to the zoo. “There is a new superhero exhibit,” he’d told me a few days earlier over a club sandwich. “I really want to check it out,” he’d added, before the day spiraled into sidewalk therapy about our friend John. John had fed himself to a bear.

“Thanks,” Carl told me as I paid his entry ticket. We made our way to the exhibit and I tried to make small talk as we went.

“How are things going with Angie?” I asked.

Carl shrugged. “She keeps wanting to work through everything.”

“Oh, poor baby.”

“No—it’s nice, but I mean, I am just in no shape to be getting serious with someone. I’ve
got too many things in my head and I am falling apart,” he said. He looked up. It was a nice day.

“Anyways, how are things with Y?” he asked.

I nodded. “Yeah, good.”

“Good.” He sighed. “Good for you.” Carl was quiet as we passed through the gateway and
stopped at the first enclosure: Victor Jaws | Alias: Bite Doctor

“My penis fell off last week,” Carl said.

I turned away from the scene. It was littered with great chewed-through blocks of concrete. I tried to look sympathetic.

“Damn, man.”

“I put it in a little bag.”

Carl reached for his pocket.

“I don’t need to see it!”

“What? No. No-no.” He unwrapped a piece of gum and put it in his mouth.

“No—it’s at home.”

“What’d Angie say?”

“What do you think? She said we’d work on it, that it’d be okay—everything will be okay,
okay?”

I nodded.

Carl chewed his gum and we walked.

It was a fascinating exhibit, though most of the heroes didn’t come out to where you could see them. We passed a group of teenagers banging on the window of Mark Storm | Alias: The Whirlwind and crying, “BLOW ME!” Carl watched them.

“Remember when we went to the aquarium and John pressed his bare ass into the glass on the tank—sharks or something, right?”

“Sharks or dolphins or something, yeah,” I said.

Carl laughed. “His mom was pissed.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Have you seen her?”

“His mom?”

“Yeah.”

“No.”

We watched the kids. They laughed and laughed and called again, “BLOW MEEEE!” At
least someone was having fun, I thought.

“I just still can’t understand,” Carl said.

Here we go, I thought.

“Why would he do it?”

“I don’t know, man.”

I always hoped I’d have a better answer for him, but every time I just said, “I don’t know,
man.”

“Like even if he’d just been normal about it, like a gun or something, or pills. He was happy, though. Right?”

“Yeah. I don’t know, man.”

“But why that way,” he sighed. “You know, when we were young, it felt like the world made a lot of sense. Now, it’s like -” He looked over to the kids—they were beside themselves, laughing.

“Enjoy it while it lasts!” Carl shouted to them.

The kids looked over. “What’d you say bro?” said the largest of the three.

Carl narrowed his eyes at him and said, “I said enjoy it while it lasts. You’re young and you’ll laugh and you’ll plan all of these things and then you’ll grow up and some of you will succeed, a little, maybe, but two out of three of you, one if you’re a real bunch of shits, which from the looks of it, you are, will fail because the world doesn’t have enough for all three of you and you’ll fuck up everything you touch because that is all anyone does is fuck things up and then make some money and—and, buy a car!”

He looked at me.

I looked up at The Whirlwind.

He was in midair on the other side of the glass, tights rolled down, masturbating with the
angriest goddamn look on his face.


Benjamin Davis is an ex-fintech journalist and folklore addict living in South Korea. His work can be found or is upcoming in *82 Review, Defenestration, Cease, Cows, and others.

2 Poems by Wallace Barker

Origami City

heading back to work on a cold and sunny day
ive earned a living my entire life now i support
plenty of other people i drive to the office
spend 8 or 10 hours frustrated and cross
then drive back home at night often eat dinner
alone that i have warmed up in the microwave
i know about quiet desperation but i also know
about real desperation because i have driven beneath
the overpass and seen the homeless encampment there
the city folds over onto itself and some people
are crushed that way and some people navigate
the creases over and over even as the folding
leaves a smaller and smaller page

 

Peaceful Easy Feeling

I was very drunk at a martini party
sitting around the fire pit with some
young successful tech bros and lawyers
my friend gave me a vape pen with
indica weed when I first arrived and

I was stoned losing my grip.
These guys were talking at me about
something but the fire was so warm
I couldn’t really respond and I thought my
normal thoughts about being overwhelmed
and possibly inferior and then you arrived
Alicia in your green dress and black boots
with your bangs falling across your glasses
and I liked that so much I like you so much
you seemed very cool to me.
I told the guys around the fire that you
are my wife in an interrupting manner and
I felt very glad and self-assured about you.
That made me calm and strong in my thoughts.
The fire was indeed warm so I sat back and
you talked and made everyone laugh.

Wallace Barker lives in Austin, Texas. He has been published in Neutral Pages, Reality Hands, Soft Cartel, and Philosophical Idiot. More of his work can be found at wallacebarker.com

3 Stories by Dylan Gray

5440194277_c23525712d_o.jpg

Solar Purification

He keeps all his water in jars beside his window. He wants to capture the sun. He tends to his garden. He gathers acorns. Water molecules bind with the photons emitted by the sun; these photons contain restorative properties. He is a young man, already considering life after death, excited for whatever shape comes next. He hopes to be a tree, growing tall, stretching closer towards the sunlight with each year, one day seeing the light travel atop his brethren against the blue mountains and aqua sky. He lays outside on his naked back to absorb all the light he can, rolling over occasionally on the soft grass. He thinks of his future kids. They will tend the garden after he is gone. He will teach them how to harness the sovereignty of the sun. When he is older, he will live inside a glass house.

Ornaments

She kicked her TV habit, now she didn’t know what to do with her life. Reading disturbed her sleeping pattern. Music was a bore. Instead, she bought all the discount Christmas ornaments from the dollar store. She would drive an hour into the country at night and toss the cheaply ornate bulbs into an abandoned quarry. The shimmers of moonlit water coalescing at the bottom with an explosion of scintillated shards of glass enthralled her for hours. She bought hundreds of baubles over this time. Eventually the quarry sparkled brilliantly, even on the clearest nights, so much so she could enjoy the tableau
promulgate without input. It would take her years to realize it was the moon she was watching, not the glitter. She kicked that habit too.

 

You and I are floating on

My butt is sucked into the center of my inner tube. You are floating on an inflatable lounging chair with the back raised. You are slightly sitting up. With our sunglasses on, we both stare at the sun. I ask what time is it. From the sun, you say, I imagine one. I dip my fingers into the cool water. My body is warm. I pull my hair out of the water and let the droplets fall on my chest. The bleary sky is empty except the sun. Fringes of water inflict my peripheries. You reapply more tanning oil. I think I’m starting to burn, I say. You can get out whenever you want, you say. The water feels so nice though. It does, doesn’t it? I tilt my head back, returning to my angst, across the inner tube, my hair slumping back into the water. I hear the splashes of water against the elastic. What is that sound? Squeaky? I hear the sound in my head – its squishy beginning, the supple pulling of the middle, the bouncy end like a loose rubber ball – and think yes. I sink my whole scalp into the water. Tangles of hair squiggle around me like a halo. I am happiest in water, I think. I am aquatic. A seagull lands between you and I. I pet its small head before it takes off. I watch the bird become indistinct from the hazy sky. I feel emotional then but am unsure why, which makes me feel more emotional. I begin to resent the seagull for having ever enter my heart. I can’t think straight, I say. You are texting on your phone. How can I relax when my brain won’t shut up and I feel so emotional all the time for reasons I  don’t know? Try actively not thinking, you say. Build a psychic barrier for your feelings from your thoughts so you can think without the input of subjective sentimentality. The restless mind will stay occupied as the flow of consciousness filters in unabashed. To quell the monkey mind is a full-time operation, but by assiduously assuaging your mind, you train yourself to resist the rational and accept the irrational, the absurd, the void. I try this out. I’m bored, I say. You can get out whenever you want, you say. I dip my hands and feet into the water. But the water feels so nice. The sun is hot. But the water is cool. I consider reorienting myself. With some effort, I am able to slide my other half into the water. I nuzzle myself via my armpits onto either side of the inner tube, stare out onto the horizon, gazing at the nothing around us.

Dylan Gray is a writer from Indiana, currently residing in Phoenix, AZ. He works at the library. Follow him @dylanthegray but don’t tell his boss.

Push to Exit by Nick Perilli

 

3799375512_c76bb3aa93_o.jpg

Push to exit: a new button to limit intrusion into the break room and create a clear distinction between
useless and productive hours in the minds of the workers. It’s green.

O

The workers have already stopped pushing to exit. They mill around the door, their hands hovering over the delicate button. It is difficult for them to choose to work because they know work is bullshit. They build a colony in the break room and it thrives. It is self-sufficient with its own economy and robust
culture.

Push to force exit: a new button to limit abuse of the original button. Administration pushes it. The door blows open, sucking all but one worker into the endless vacuum of responsibilities. They can’t breathe out there. They go limp and choke. The blue light of the planet glows across their sad faces.

O

An administrator descends the emergency elevator to the break room. They can’t stand the air down there, so they wear several breathing apparatuses. They prod the lone straggling worker – holding fast to the edge of the break room door – with a broom handle. The worker fights back, grabbing the handle and pulling the administrator with the rest of the workers into the howling vacuum.

Administration doesn’t know what to do. We sit in silent penance and grief. In time, the emergency elevator snaps back to life. We do the same, tearing webs from our crusted eyes.

We welcome the admin back as a hero. They are changed; shifted; they look nothing like their employee ID. Before they even remove their breathing apparatuses, they install a new button.

Push to pizza party: a new button in administration to be slammed all damn day, filling the voids of this place with radiant pizza.

But the admin pushes it too much. There is only so much space for the pizza and we are concerned. The pizza filled this place and has begun to encroach on our person. A few of us fight through the impossible amount of cheese, of sauce, of dough that’s not too chewy or crispy but just right, to reach the lost admin in their office.
Some of us succumb to the lack of oxygen and the pressing weight of the pies growing against our chests with each push to pizza party. I don’t just yet.
The admin sits at their desk, slamming their raw fist down on the button. They see me enter, a knowing look on their stark worker face. I am already suffocating. I tell the “admin” to look out over the company floor. The workers are dead, consumed by the product of this endless button. The admin knows this already. The workers died happy, they tell me, a party all around them and pizza in their lungs. Perhaps a new company—a new world—will be born from the sauce-soaked remains of this one. Until then, the admin will push to pizza party.

I cannot speak. My mouth is dough. My blood is marinara.

Nick Perilli is a writer and librarian living in Philadelphia with loved ones who have yet to watch Gremlins 2 with him. Links to more of his published work are on his discount website nickperilli.com. Sometimes he tweets as @nicoloperilli. That’s it.

Rusted by David Bassano

6261042198_642bc42f4d_o.jpg

Rusted brick-red Chevy van

with our sleeping bags

spread out on plywood

in the back

 

Carrying our amps through

slushy parking lots at three AM

 

Playing those bars in

Wildwood

Somerset

Vineland

Stockton

Atlantic City

 

We lived from our music

and a little theft and dealing

eighteen, nineteen,

very poor and very happy.

 

We said a musician’s life

was the best in the world.

Enjoy your 9 to 5 prison, drones.

 

One by one, we left that life.

I remember Mike saying,

quietly and decisively,

“I’m tired of this,”

 

of having no money

of sleeping on friends’ floors,

of eating on the sidewalk,

 

of sex in back rooms

and hangovers

without stability

without love

 

So

we cut our hair

went to college

bought new clothes

 

Got jobs, wives, houses, and children.

 

And then

we got tired of those lives, too.

 

You get tired of everything

eventually

I guess.

 

It worries me about heaven.

I’m sure we’ll get bored with that, too.

But where do you go from there?

David Bassano gives history lectures for fun and rent money. He likes bike trails, Paris along the river, and Glenmorangie on the rocks. He published a novel called Trevelyan’s Wager. Any complaints should be addressed to: https://www.facebook.com/davidbassanoauthor/

F/24/Manic by Jenna Houchin

1725317_6a7836a2ac_o.jpg

The smartest mouth breather
In the conference room,
And I yell, “fuck a 9 to 5”
Mr. and Mrs. Miserable
On a good day,
Wish we could just
Fuck while getting high.
Wouldn’t take it back
Even if I tried,
I was raised poorly.
It feels like a waste.
Sitting right here,
Now with first class seats,
And still, with an economy sized taste.
No matter how sweetly
I write the chorus,
My therapist never seems
To comprehend
The duality of man:
I think apple juice
Is the best chaser,
And I’ll never be as
Close to the Son there again.

Jenna Houchin is an artist based in Los Angeles, California, originally from the midwest. She recently has self-published her first poetry book, FULL THROTTLE. For more information, check out her website at jennahouchin.com, or reach her on Instagram (@jennahouchin).

All Created Equal by Bud E. Ice

All Created Equal BP Press.png

I stood there looking at this hole in the ground. Six feet deep with walls made of dirt. That’s where Soapy was going. Everyone at the job called him “Soapy” because we came to the conclusion that he never took a shower. We found humor in the irony even though it wasn’t that clever.

I decided to attend the funeral because I was off from work that day and Soapy had never given me a particular reason to dislike him. I was one of three people there, with the exception of the priest and those working for the cemetery.

Soapy’s gravestone was so small that it could have easily been stepped on had there not been a big ass hole dug up in front of it. The priest said some prayers and I blessed myself once I saw everyone else do it. Then it was over. The whole thing took about ten minutes. The groundskeepers stood off to the side, waiting, so they could lower the body in and cover it up with the excess dirt.

I walked up to the gravestone as everyone began walking back to their cars. One last look to take it all in and see what the inevitable future was headed for. Apparently Soapy’s real name was Bernard. He was also a lot younger than I thought he was. Aside from the bad hygiene, I didn’t know much else about him. But I still ended up paying my respects somehow. There were probably people out there who had known him much better than I, but they were nowhere to be found.

“You almost done here?” I heard a voice say from behind me. It was one of the gravediggers, an elderly man who looked five seconds away from burying himself.

“Yeah.”

“Sorry for your loss.”

“Huh? Oh, yeah. Thanks.”

I didn’t know what else to say. It wasn’t really my loss. But there was no point in explaining any of that to him. He was on the clock and had a corpse to bury.

“How do you guys get the hole so perfectly squared?” I asked.

“We get a lot of practice,” the old man replied. I almost forgot that people die everyday. And that other people get paid to bury them.

I looked around and scanned the cemetery. I saw a group of men constructing a rather large monument a few yards away.

“What are they doing over there?” I asked.

“That? It’s called a mausoleum.”

“It’s a lot  bigger than my friend’s little plaque, here.”

“That person probably had a lot more money than your friend.”

“Even in death you can tell who the winners were.”

We may have all been created equal. It’s just a shame we don’t always get to live or die that way.

 

Bud E. Ice is a functioning alcoholic and part-time lowlife located right outside the ratchet grounds of Southwest Philadelphia. His work typically involves a comedic take on social etiquette, race, class, morality, battles within the self, family issues, death, vulnerability, and whatever other realities seem relevant at the time of the writing. It’s HIS reality, but a reality nonetheless. So the reader can either RELATE to it or LEARN from it. After all, isn’t that what this is all about? There’s far worse ways to waste time. Follow him on TWITTER: @BudEIce

2 Prose Poems by Rickey Rivers Jr.

115713250_6f67804e25_o.jpg

Conversation

I don’t like quietness in conversation. At some point it’s not a conversation anymore. It’s just me talking and the other person sitting or standing there listening. Not even a sound of confirmation, not even a head nod, just silence. It’s at this point where I begin to wonder where their mind has taken them and why have they not chosen to take me there with them. It’s important to involve others in your mind, to not let conversation become stagnant. It’s okay to let others in. One time I held a one way conversation with a woman and she stared at me the whole time. Once I was done talking I expected a response, actual politeness. At least acknowledge me. But no, even after I finished she stared blankly as if transported to some pleasant far away land. I didn’t ask. I just walked away from the rudeness. What use is conversation with a corpse? I ask you this question seriously. Even now I’m reminded of her rudeness, her sitting there leaning, her blankly being present and yet not present in conversing. A person is a shell if they refuse to converse. You might as well be discarded if you’re a shell, and she was a shell sitting there, quiet, like she hadn’t moved for a long time.

 

Bounce

At the club people dance, romance; you want to join but you don’t know the meaning of coordination. So you sit back and watch, merging with the walls, becoming a pattern of flesh and bone colors. The people don’t notice. No one notices the person who has now become the scenery. They continue to dance and romance, so many bodies on the floor. It stinks in here and yet the smell is not unpleasant. Someone rolls over to you, almost catching your eye but you refuse their iris and instead pretend to be elsewhere. So they roll away and romance with another. The unrecognizable song blaring from the sound system suddenly changes and the people begin to bounce. They behave as if drug induced, bouncing off the ceiling and hitting the walls viciously. They move in coordination, booming and splatting against you, their bodies sweaty and large. How much longer can you last before you leave? Will you die here unnoticed? Finally, you exhale and withdraw from your self-made walled enclosure. Almost immediately vomit exits your body and the people are still bouncing. Some land in front of you, splashing and slipping in your waste. They seem not to notice in their current rate of motion. You apologize to no one and stand to make your leave. Just then someone grabs you, placing something small into your retched mouth. Now you are bouncing as well. There is no care in the bounce, no worries or troubles. It is almost like life itself is pulling you away from it all.

Rickey Rivers Jr was born and raised in Alabama. He is a writer and cancer survivor. He has been previously published with Fabula Argentea, Back Patio Press, Every Day Fiction, (among other publications). https://storiesyoumightlike.wordpress.com/. You may or may not find something you like there. Tweets at @storiesyoumight. His third mini collection of 3×3 poems is available now: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07VDH6XG5

3 Poems by Capella Parrish

28478874731_44f9f5506d_o.jpg

Break

It is not the depression
I can handle quicksand
It always stops at the nape of my neck
It is the anxiety
The inability to feel / cuts me
Asked the question / I fall apart
I have no answer to

 

Trajectory of Decay

Recovery is a process
The road is fraught with demons
Looking for relief from the pain
Why should I try, I am not worthy of it
Everything shatters; This is why we can’t have nice things
Moment to moment, I shut down and go into my head
I exist in a hospital without walls
My soul is glass
Look inside: it is rotten

 

Press Start

Look in. Press start.
It does no good unless you turn it on. Press start.
Clear liquid. It also helps if you put a filter with coffee in it. Press start.
It is even more helpful if you flip on the switch in the back.
Coffee is overrated. I should wean myself from my caffeine addiction.
I should stop trying to make things work and just wing it. Cold turkey.
Not today.

Capella Parrish works as an intern in Behavioral Health and is a EMT Disaster Service Worker working with the homeless. She writes without a filter from the underbelly of life and is a first-year MFA Creative Nonfiction candidate with an emphasis in Narrative/ Poetic Medicine at Dominican University of California.

“Under One Minute Remaining” by Lucy Zhang

Mixed Media Painting (Detail) by Choichun Leung / Dumbo Arts Cen

Under one minute remaining. In theory, fifty-nine seconds, fifty-eight seconds, fifty-seven seconds…

It has been at “under one minute remaining…” for about half an hour now. 

Here’s how this came to be:

A father has a daughter who just started ninth grade. He didn’t grow up in the United States so he’s only now learning about college applications and National Merit scholarships, AP exams and extracurricular activities. This father comes into work at seven am and buys a bowl of oatmeal mixed with raisins and almonds, a habit that has endured for over two decades. Today his task is to animate the progress bar from start to finish, as accurately as possible. He figures he can divide everything into operations: each operation takes a constant amount of time, equivalent to some portion of the bar, and he’ll let progress move at constant velocity until it reaches the next operation where a new velocity will be defined. Or, he can hard code a time–like thirty minutes–and have the progress accelerate towards the end should the real work finish early. And if not, stalling at ninety-nine percent until everything finishes might be viable. But ninety-nine percent looks rather close to one hundred percent and people might think that’s good enough when really it isn’t. Because that last operation? Without it, you end up with a mutant system where launching Microsoft Word triggers the simultaneous destruction of the internal clock, roaring of spinning fans, and a defunct security mechanism whose original purpose was to save you from this very situation but now all it can do is write files to a directory forever. Perhaps he should make an indeterminate progress bar with flashing blue and white stripes, but he is certain the higher-ups wouldn’t approve a user interface without a time estimate. He is also certain the last operation will not complete in under one minute, but these are just semantics, the “nuances of language” so his high school English teacher liked to say, and all of this seems superior to “Under an infinite amount of time remaining…”. Plus he enjoys wasting millions of people’s time–time they could be spending making the world a worse place, so he’s probably a hero of sorts. He clicks into the text file, fingers rapidly hitting keyboard buttons for two or three seconds, saves his work, and pushes it to production with privileges he acquired back when the company was small and really someone should’ve redacted these godlike abilities because him hitting the “return” button is, at least today, surely a violation of corporate democracy.

Somewhere else, in a poor country where only one person has enough money to afford products meant to elevate the life experience beyond basic physical sustenance, this person stares at a progress bar moving neither forward nor backward, even though it seems so close to completion. Well, if it’ll take under a minute, it may be worth the wait. Governing a country can come later.